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Consultant surgeon's colourful challenge for bowel cancer awareness

PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 December 2019

Consultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru and colleagues at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation Trust

Consultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru and colleagues at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation Trust

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A consultant surgeon is taking a colourful approach to tackling bowel cancer this December in a bid to save lives.

Consultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation TrustConsultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation Trust

Vamsi Ramana Velchuru raised more than £4,000 for Bowel Cancer UK 12 months ago through his Decembeard, after dying his beard an array of colours.

Now, the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) consultant bowel cancer surgeon will again transform his facial hair to raise awareness of the cancer's symptoms.

He said: "I was also a cancer patient myself. In 2015, during the pinnacle of my career, my life turned upside down with the diagnosis of Lymphoma. On a daily basis, I can relate to my patients when breaking bad news.

"My young family and I faced the difficult, unsurmountable agony. Our lives changed forever.

Consultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru and colleagues at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation TrustConsultant bowel cancer surgeon Vamsi Velchuru and colleagues at the James Paget University Hospital taking part in Bowel Cancer UK's Decembeard challenge. PHOTO: JPUH NHS Foundation Trust

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"Bowel cancer can affect people of all ages. My youngest patient was less than 25 years old.

"Presenting early to your GP with symptoms might help in picking it up in the early stages. Similarly, taking part in NHS bowel cancer screening can also significantly improve survival rates. I want to set an example for young cancer patients. Having a positive outlook in life, and with the support of a loving family and friends, they can regain normality."

Mr Velchuru will again take part in the Decembeard challenge this year, and has urged others to reach for the hair dye. He said: "I was very humbled by the fantastic response from patients, friends and family last year. I was thrilled to reach the initial £1,000 target in less than 24 hours, so a huge thank you to all the donors and well-wishers around the globe.

"Hair dying is the easiest way to fundraise, with the variety of hair sprays available. One of my former bosses who raised money for charity by running marathons was very jealous that I raised so much without a sweat.

"If you have never grown a beard then this is the best reason to start. Beard baubles during the festive period makes a good conversation starter."

Thousands are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, with symptoms including blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason, or a pain or lump in the belly after eating.

To find out more about the Decembeard campaign, go to www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk.

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